Senate to ratify Bayanihan 2 for govt's COVID-19 response on Aug. 20


Posted at Aug 19 2020 06:36 PM

MANILA - Senate leaders on Wednesday said the chamber will ratify on Thursday, Aug. 20, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) for the government's COVID-19 response, nearly 2 months after the first Bayanihan Act expired.

The bicameral conference committee members from the Senate and the House of Representatives are nearly done reconciling differing provisions in the bill, Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara said.

"We only have about 10 to 12 provisions left. We can finish it by tonight or tomorrow," Angara, who chairs the Senate contingent to the bicameral meetings, told other senators in plenary.

The urgency of passing the Bayanihan 2 into law prompted the Senate to hold session on Thursday. The chamber usually meets in plenary only from Monday to Wednesday.

"We need to get the assurance that your bicam will be done by 1 or 2 pm because if you're not [done], it will be a waiting game," Sotto said.

Senators had to stay up until around 3 a.m. in March when Congress pushed to pass the first Bayanihan law in just one session day.

The Bayanihan 2 will allow President Rodrigo Duterte to realign funds for COVID-19 response programs, and authorize the executive department to disburse P140-billion to aid industries hit by the health and economic crises.

It is also expected to mandate lending institutions to grant a 60-day grace period on the payment of loans, a staff from Angara's office earlier said.

The measure will require government to grant a P15,000-cash assistance to health workers diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19.

Some parties earlier pushed for the inclusion of a P10-billion fund in the Bayanihan 2 to augment the COVID-19 testing budget of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth). But Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto blocked the proposal, saying the state-run insurance firm already has a P200-billion fund that has yet to be liquidated.

More than 173,000 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the Philippines, as of Wednesday, of which, 57,498 are active cases. The country's first case was recorded on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged.

The coronavirus lockdowns in the country since mid-March has crippled the economy.